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Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's jail sentence slashed

Jerusalem: Israel's top court slashed former prime minister Ehud Olmert's prison sentence to 18 months from six years on Tuesday after overturning the main count in his 2014 bribery conviction.

Sentence reduced for former Israeli PM

Israel's Supreme Court reduces former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's prison sentence for a sweeping bribery scandal and clears him of the main bribery charge against him.

Olmert, 70, will begin serving his term on February 15, according to live reports from the Jerusalem courtroom, making him the first former head of government in Israel to go to prison.

The charges related to his near-decade as Jerusalem's mayor from 1993 to 2003 and real estate deals in the city.

The conviction ended speculation that Olmert - a centrist credited with working towards a peace settlement with the Palestinians until the graft scandal forced him to step down - might return to political life.

The Kadima party he formerly headed is no longer in parliament.

Olmert, prime minister from 2006 to 2009, has denied any wrongdoing in a major property deal that led to the construction of the hilltop Holyland apartment towers, a hulking stone complex widely seen as one of Jerusalem's worst eyesores.

"A large weight has been lifted from my heart with the Supreme Court deciding to acquit me of the main charge in the Holyland affair," Olmert told reporters after the Supreme Court ruling.

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks to the media after the Supreme Court reduced his prison sentence from ...
Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert speaks to the media after the Supreme Court reduced his prison sentence from six years to 18 months in the Holyland corruption case. Photo: AP

"No bribe was ever offered to me and I never accepted one," said Olmert, who looked visibly relieved. "But I respect the verdict of the Supreme Court justices."

Tel Aviv District Court found Olmert guilty in March 2014 of two bribery charges, finding that he accepted 500,000 shekels ($176,600) from developers of the Holyland project and 60,000 shekels in a separate real estate deal.

The six-year sentence handed down by the lower court had been put on hold until the culmination of the appeal.

Olmert is expected to serve his term, separated off from most other prisoners, in the same jail holding former Israeli president Moshe Katzav. Katzav was convicted of rape charges in 2010 and sentenced to seven years' jail.

Issuing its ruling, a five-member Supreme Court panel said it had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that Olmert had solicited the 500,000 shekels from a real estate developer to help the veteran politician's brother get out of debt. It upheld his conviction on accepting the smaller amount.

A lawyer by profession, Olmert began his political career in the 1970s as a right-wing MP who targeted organised crime in Israel. As the country's leader, Olmert waged war in Lebanon in 2006 and the Gaza Strip in 2008.

Reuters

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